Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Speedy cucumber soup.

As all my yummychef fans know, I’m a fool for soup. I just love it! I love how it warms on a cold day and I enjoy the fact that you can really make a soup from anything! Now although I’ve made my thai green curry soup here in Koh Lanta, as is a traditional dish, I decided this afternoon that I would experiment with a cold soup. It’s pretty hot here today!

It was a very quick recipe with our vita mix blender.

I only made enough for a bowlful each, but just add more ingredients depending on the volume you want to make. Adjust the amount of garlic you add too. I love garlic in all its forms, but raw, it can be quite overpowering. I would say the same with spring onions too, so play around with it until you get the depth of flavour you like.
As you also may know, due to our location, coconuts are easy to get hold of, but you could add mineral water, a couple of ice cubes and some dried coconut if you want that kind of flavour, or some coconut water from a carton, or creamed coconut. It’s up to you.

1 large cucumber peeled and chopped
2 large tomatoes chopped
3-4 spring onions
1 coconut ( the flesh and water)
2-3 cloves of garlic minced
Handful of Dill
A few cubes of ice

Blend all of these together and serve on a hot day!

IMG_0424.JPG

IMG_0414.JPG
I used to drink a lot of cows milk. My mum always made sure I had it available. It was the only drink that seemed to quench my thirst for so many years. There are a myriad of sweet, creamy desserts and accompaniments made of milk that I enjoyed.

I was brought with the best possible, I never went hungry and mum always cooked for us all or we could help ourselves. I was lucky. I still am. My mum really makes an effort to look after me, even with my changes.
In the last few years I have changed my diet, mainly because I had some underlying health issues, which I wanted to address and I felt that they might be linked to food, because a lot of the feelings and symptoms I seemed to get, happened when or after I ate. I’m not going to go into too much detail and I am not a health practitioner, I am just sharing with you my lifestyle choices, because they may be of interest to some. All I know, is that I cut eggs, dairy and meat from my diet and my issues stopped. I do suffer occasionally, because I give in to my habits and ‘cravings’ for comfort eating, but I always realise afterwards the damage caused. One day I will be able to eat the food exactly right for me.

I would rather show you alternatives to the cows milk, because there are plenty of sources regarding our consumption of it, from health professionals and experts to show that it might not be as good for us as all those adverts would have us believe. After I started investigating the health benefits of cutting down on these foods, I came across the ethical implications of this mass production of cows milk and other animal products.

I don’t really want to debate the mass production of animal produce and in my opinion, the unnecessary need for meat at every meal. I have just found ways to remain healthy and feel good. That is, predominantly plant based.

I was thinking about all this when I was drinking my coconut shake this morning. It’s coconut water, coconut flesh and a little ice. It turns out like a creamy milkshake like texture when blended. Similarly, another favourite of mine is banana shake, a few bananas, dates and enough water to make a good consistency.

Nut milks and seed milks are nutritious and have health benefits that in my opinion, outweigh hose that are traditionally associated with dairy.
It is difficult when surrounded by dairy products, especially when they have direct habit and comfort links to childhood comforts and when these ‘free from’ and whole products are given a higher price tag. It doesn’t seem right or fair to me that a family should have to choose what could potentially be the more unhealthy option, just because of budget. How clever and convenient for the dairy industry bosses.

We have also been told public facts in marketing about dairy, regarding its calcium content being high, yet nothing about the risks of osteoporosis, anaemia and iron deficiencies.

I’m not telling people what to eat, I’m just giving my opinion, and the suggestion that, with a little research, alternatives can be found, even if they are once or twice a week. With this much information now at our fingertips, there is no need to make uninformed choices anymore. We are free to decide, without blindly accepting every piece of information fed to us by profit hungry multi million pound industries.

The implications of us eating less animal products would of course affect them the most, so they will try whatever they can to convince us otherwise.

This isn’t just milk from a cow in our back garden, it isn’t like that anymore. A cow should not produce milk in the quantities they do it is not natural.

Here is how milk is mass produced
Here is what is in the mass produced dairymilk we drink
Here is what milk can do to our bones
Here is some nut and seed milk info
Here is a link to plant based calcium sources
Here is an opinion on eating less animal products

During the day, we like to eat as much fruit and raw food as possible, with the occasional cooked dish in the evenings. We love curries, salads and soups and we really enjoy sampling the local foods. We have been to a few restaurants here on Koh Lanta and have tried some of the more common curries. Green, Red, Yellow and Masamam. They all have a similar base of herbs and spices, they just have slight differences that give them their signature colour or sweetness. The Green curry has green chillies and plenty of coriander, the red sometimes up to 30 red chillies, the yellow has a splash of turmeric and the Masamam pineapple, cashew nuts and potato.

This week, I’ve been experimenting with the Green. First, I tried to make it by taste, guessing which ingredients gave it flavour, but today we went to a local herb garden, in the forest, where the owner gave me a guided tour of his herbs and told me of their herbal, medicinal and culinary properties and which were good in curries and other dishes. I was in my element and really enjoyed it. So much so, that we will go back and take pictures to post sometime this week to show you. It was such a peaceful place.

Back to tonight’s curry. We came upon the market on our way for a swim this afternoon, so I picked up some vegetables and some herbs.

IMG_0359-0.JPG
Including these little Thai Aubergines πŸ™‚ yum

IMG_0361.JPG
I’m not very good at ingredients lists as I’m just experimenting and guessing by eye, but what you see here is enough to make a curry for two people two meals, or four at one meal.

Ingredients

Green curry paste
Handful of Fresh coriander chopped
A few aniseed leaves torn
A few kefir lime leaves (mine were dried)
3 pieces of crushed/dried lemongrass
4 cloves garlic chopped
2 -5 green chillis chopped with seeds (I added 3 and it was medium spicy)
Ginger chopped
I don’t have a food processor here, so I chopped all the above ingredients finely.

Vegetables (which you can change to your tastes)
Onion(I think onions are a must)
Squash
Sweet potato
Broccoli
Cauliflower
Carrots
Water and flesh from 2-4 coconuts (1 coconut = 3/4 pt of water/stock)
Coconut milk (depending on how creamy you would like it)
Salt and pepper to taste
Soy sauce

I used coconuts, because they are growing everywhere here and are nicer than bottled water, but I know in UK coconut water in cartons is pretty expensive. If you want the sweetness that this water brings, I would buy some, but it isn’t essential.

Fry the ‘paste’ and add the onions, fry for about 10 minutes in a deep pan. Add the rest of your vegetables chopped into bite sized pieces, then add the water. It is often served as a soup here, which calls for more liquid, but it’s up to you.

I also added rice noodles for the last ten minutes, but you could cook these separately or serve your curry with steamed rice.

IMG_0363.JPG

IMG_0327.JPG

I remember my mother had a collection of shells
Their beauty, unique variety, natural swirls and structures flowed
Once perhaps a home, once protection bestowed
In the wake of their use to some hermit or runaway.

We’d spend hours, over the years, looking through them,
Turning each one over in curious hands, knowing each fissure, each dip
Every scratch. Imaging them tumbling under waves, under ships
Images of kings and their queens sailing by from distant shores.

Whenever I pick up shells at the beach,
I think of this collection and I am transported back to those days
And I love my mum and her amazing array
Of beautiful things she has shared with me.

A way to remember a memory,
When rifling through your bag, to find the keys in a frantic mess,
You find a shell, or a bead, or some other treasure that got you through some stress.
That kind of natural, transient possession, is the kind I like the best.

Raw Take on Pad Thai

One of my favourite dishes is Pad Thai and although I love the taste of the traditional, I don’t eat it as much, because egg and fish sauce are in it, although it’s really good without those two ingredients. A while ago I made a raw Pad Thai and I wanted to recreate it now that we are in Thailand.

This morning Old Town, where we rent a little apartment, was visited by the market. As far as we can tell, aside from the stall vendors at the roadside and in the main town, Saladan, the place to buy the best vegetables, with a huge variety, is the market. Sounds great – there’s a catch. There isn’t a set day or destination for the market. I basically pops up somewhere different on various days, from 6-10am.

IMG_0328.JPG
Here are the ingredients I got for my raw take on Pad Thai. I would have liked peppers, mushrooms and cherry tomatoes too, but alas I couldn’t find any. The herb, is aniseed which is used a lot here in curries.

IMG_0331.JPG

IMG_0329.JPG
I chopped the garlic, ginger, chilli and the aniseed, then I put them in a tablespoon of oil (I used flaxseed) and soy sauce (couldn’t find raw) and some lemon juice. I left this to one side.

IMG_0332.JPG

IMG_0334.JPG
Like I said the other day, I don’t have my spiraliser here, so I used a peeler to create ‘noodles’ and julienned some of the vegetables. The squash was quite tricky, so I did half and half with that.

IMG_0335.JPG
I popped all of the ‘noodles’ together and then stirred the dressing in. I left the flavours to be absorbed for about half an hour (you could leave it over night stirring every now an then if you’d like them a little softer)

IMG_0336.JPG
Pad Thai is served with lime, cucumber, crushed peanuts, chilli soy and sugar…I didn’t have all these so I improvised and ours was served with lemon, cucumber, crushed pistachio, chilli soy and pineapple.

IMG_0338-0.JPG
It was yummy! Except by the end of the dish it got a bit too oniony, so I would use spring onion next time, also we both added more soy sauce to taste! Let me know if you try it!

Light lunch….

IMG_0319.JPG

IMG_0320.JPG

Creature of habit

IMG_0310-1.PNG When I lived in Wales, some 10 years ago now, I worked in a little busy cafe. I made really good friends there, learnt how to cook vegan and vege food, loved the social life that revolved around the place. What was it that I liked so much? It was, absolutely, 100% about feeding people good food and being there for them. Some wanted a coffee and to be left in peace with their newspaper in the corner, some needed a listening ear and a nice home cooked meal and some came to chat, to hang out, sometimes all day. It was a part of people’s daily life, in their routines. It became a habit for some to come in on a Monday to freshly baked croissants with a vanilla latte.

I could wander down that high street and see customers pass by. If I couldn’t remember their name, I could distinguish them by their ‘usual’. Perhaps I was taking away part of the choice by piping up with ‘are you having your usual?’ Maybe I was being overly smug when I placed the prawn mayo on whole grain, with lettuce no tomato into the regular’s hand. In my head I’m asking ‘why are you still so impressed that I can predict that you want this meal, that you order every day for lunch?’ Even though I was, on some level, aware of this groundhog behaviour and silently hoping something unusual would be ordered, the exchanges like this became automatic behaviour.

I mean that when a part of your day, a visit like this, becomes part of your routine, it becomes welcoming, it is comfortable and you know that the particular sense of calm familiarity will leave you feeling better. Take smoking, for instance. I used to smoke. I tried giving up at various points, cutting down, promising myself cigarettes as rewards. I never managed it, until I was working as a carer. I looked after a 45 year old woman who had suffered a stroke, which left her in a wheelchair permanently and unable to talk as clearly as she’d like. She seemed constantly frustrated and when I did some research on strokes, one of the main contributors to the risk of one at an early age, was smoking. I’m not sure why this particularly hit home, it just did. And so I examined my smoking. I’d been doing it for years, from school age. It was initially a peer acceptance thing, but then became a habit and eventually I saw it as a comfort.

I associated smoking with relaxing with a morning coffee, a drink with friends, a break at work, a satisfying meal, at the end of a long journey. I realised a little earlier than this that they tasted awful, made me smell and cost money I didn’t need to spend. It all started making sense. The habit I had created was to do with the association to the comfort. If I was stressed (which is another story altogether) I turned to cigarettes. If I was in my car and I was stuck in traffic, if I had become upset, if I was waiting for something. Ugh the list seems endless. A crutch I made. But the thing is, I really understood what I had to do when smoking started to be banned indoors.

As I made my way around in general, I spotted people smoking outside pubs in the rain, outside restaurants in their aprons, huddled in porches. I realised that I might be that person. I thought if you weren’t smoking, would you be doing those things? Most probably not. Then I thought, of all the things you do with a cigarette, are any of them possible without the cigarette? Of course they are! The only thing that would change is that there would be no cigarette. And it was that clear for me. I didn’t need to have a cigarette in any of the situations I used to. It was just a habit I had created (with some help from an addiction) Which really brings me to the point of my post today. Smoking was a habit I created from attachment and association to a feeling of comfort. It had nothing to do with any of the situations I was experiencing, it was just there, as a sort of extra. I felt the need to add it on and it was unnecessary, because everything else happened regardless of that cigarette. It was detrimental to my health and my mindset.

Now I got to thinking last night, that if it was that simple to accept that this habit could be excluded from a situation, perhaps I could transfer this theory to my negative thought processes. Or any kind of thought process that has become an automatic behaviour. In other words, a habit. Everything that happens to me, or that I experience, will happen irrespective of any thoughts I have. The habit I seem to have become caught in is that I constantly self narrate. I am constantly listening to my mind as things happen; creating, through habit, a routine self judgement, full of speculations, assumptions and devaluation. It’s exhausting. I am now aware that I need to detach my thoughts from what is happening. For my own health. Like smoking was a detriment to my health, so are my thought patterns. I don’t have to over analyse, over think or expect anything, I just need to let things happen and deal with them in the Present.

My thought habits are not making experiences better, they’re jading them and pulling a cloud across everything. If I can see a thought arising, it will have come from fear, or greed, or jealousy or some other emotion. I am aware of this now, that it has become automatic behaviour for me to let these thoughts rule me and to affect my moods. I’ve become addicted to the feelings of productivity maybe. Or is it control. Or am I used to society as a whole rewarding happy, jolly and smiling, rather than validating all emotions. ‘If I analyse my thoughts, at least I’m doing something to try and change things for the better, so that I don’t get hurt or upset, or affected by situations and people don’t think I’m being miserable’ Right? If they think you are miserable, then they are wrong. Being miserable is not you, it is how you feel. It just doesn’t make any difference to the situation at all. It will still happen however it is meant to, it’s just that I’m feeling fear, guilt or whatever and coming to the conclusion that I mustn’t feel this way. I’m punishing myself by letting my habit take the lead. But it makes no difference. It’s okay to feel these emotions and I don’t have to change them. Somewhere along the line I’ve created a belief that I can only have positive feelings and I think I project this onto others also. I’m constantly wondering what people think of me and how I can come across better or I’m spending my time trying to guess what they are feeling by the way they are behaving, because for some reason I think that my knowing this will change how I feel. But I cannot change how I feel. When I feel something, then I hear in my mind ‘if you don’t quickly cover up that sadness you feel after a disagreement, everyone will feel terrible and the whole atmosphere will change.’ It is just a thought. In my head. It only becomes real, or feels real if I focus on it and believe it to be true. I can let the thought surface, know what emotion it stems from, then let it go. The statement I should hear in my mind (which will take lots of practice I’m sure) is something like ‘there was a disagreement, which made you feel sad. It’s ok to feel sad, but don’t forget people disagree on things all the time. When you feel better, if you want to, you could think about why it made you sad, but at the moment, while you’re feeling the emotion, don’t let it affect your mood.’

I now have to investigate the possibility that a lot more of my behaviour is created habit and attachment to recapturing a more pleasant emotion. One of those habits is eating comfort foods. They are associated with the comfort of feeling better. So we might repeat the ritual of eating a pizza and ice cream to ‘cheer us up’, only to feel bloated and guilty afterwards. We can recognise that eating certain foods will result in these bad feelings, but at some point in time, we sat down to eat that pizza and the ice cream and had a really wonderful time. The cheese was melted to perfection, the dough was soft, the ice cream creamy and decadent, the company interesting. Or maybe that dish your mum used to make ‘your favourite’. Obviously I’m not discounting your mums cooking, I’m just highlighting that we are creatures of habit and that I’m always half and half between eating whole foods for their nutritional value as they are and creating a dish with many flavour elements, just to incite good feelings. Could it be that eating has become a habit ( breakfast, Lunch and Dinner) rather than an intrinsic necessity? Are we constantly chasing new tastes and flavour combinations because we feel we should or because it feels comfortable to arrange our days like this around structured meal times?

I don’t think that this habit or any other is going to be easy to eradicate from my life, or if I should try and do so. I do still want a cigarette from time to time, but I always try to remember that everything can be done with or without the cigarette, so what’s the point of smoking.

IMG_0313.PNGt